No matter how successful you become, the storm clouds of depression will always be lurking on the horizon. And the skies can often open up without warning. While in the midst of it, it’s easy to forget that everyone goes through some version of it – in their own time and on their own cycle.
You are experiencing something as common as the cold.
And sometimes the best thing we can do is just make an effort to nourish ourselves and weather the storm.
Depression can be triggered by legitimately devastating events like a divorce, a business collapse, or the passing of someone we deeply loved. But other times it can be brought about by less overtly apparent circumstances.
In our culture, we’re led to believe that you can simply buy or work your way out of pain or suffering and into perpetual happiness and fulfillment. And the more you buy and the more you work, the higher you climb on the ladder of success to safety and security.
But escaping the full spectrum of the human experience, both the highs and the lows, is complete and utter bullshit. It’s just an illusion sold to us by advertisers and the media, and perpetuated by our own minds.
If we can accept that fact, then we are well on our way to upgrading our capacity for peace and true fulfillment in every day life, as well as wielding more mastery over the rolodex of our fluctuating internal states.
Depression happens. Period. But what you can do is learn the specific things that help move you through it.
After having hundreds of conversations with friends and clients around combating their darkest times, as well as drowning in those seas many times myself, I’ve seen several things common to every person that has fought and come out the other side.
They didn’t recover because they divinely received clarity on their life purpose, or brought their departed loved one back to life. The way out is actually much more basic than that. So basic, in fact, that we have a hard time following it because we can’t even believe that it could possibly be the remedy the intense anguish and sadness that we’re feeling in the moment.
Alone time is essential for reflection and processing. But when you’re low, solitude is an especially delicate balance. We usually over-indulge way beyond the point of what is healthy. Focusing on actively contrasting staring at the ceiling with being outdoors in good company is crucial.
Set up drinks or a dinner date with a friend that makes you laugh. Go out for low-key coffees. Set up phone calls. When you lock yourself up in your apartment, you’re allowing your anxiety and self-destructive patterns to win.
We are social animals. Our bodies are wired to dump feel-good hormones like oxytocin into our system when we’re touched and held. If we’re being too solitary, we never allow for the possibility of our emotional and physical needs to be met in the time when we need it most.
When we’re stressed out and overwhelmed, a primary tendency of the ego is to isolate. Deep down, many people feel afraid that their sadness and grief will be a burden to others, or they’ll be rejected for it. Maybe they feel embarrassed for feeling depressed in the first place and subconsciously hide their struggle from the people that love them.
Not allowing ourselves to be nourished and supported by other people is often the biggest obstacle we must overcome to move through depression. Sharing your mind and feelings with someone you trust is the most powerful thing you can do to heal.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
– Do you believe that people actually care about you and want to help?
– Do you believe that you’re worthy of being supported?
– Do you fear that people will judge, shame or invalidate you for the way you feel?
– What if someone reached out to you for help, how would you feel? Most people feel honoured, important and connected when they are given a chance to show up and support someone they care about. Why wouldn’t you let someone that cares about you have that opportunity?
To break out of unhealthy habits of isolation and withdrawal, you’ll have to confront these kinds of questions and get really honest with yourself. Self-knowledge is one of the immense gifts we can glean from our pain and suffering, if we’re open to it.
If this sounds like you, I want you to pick up your phone and call someone right now to bust yourself. Make sure this is a person that you feel safe with and usually leaves you feeling refreshed after connecting. At the very least, send them a text admitting that you’re having a hard time and need to talk to someone you love for support.
Trust me, they’ll have a minute.
2. Work Out
Putting on your runners or stepping in the gym is a self-nourishing act. You’re sending the message to yourself that your health matters, and so do you.
Plus there are a whole host of brain benefits related to exercise. Your body creates dopamine and endorphins, which get you high and kill pain, naturally. Vigorous workouts also move stagnant, funky energy that’s pent up in your system.
The possibilities for how you can break a sweat are endless. If you genuinely enjoy it, you’ll be much more likely to make exercising a default choice, versus having it be something you dread and never end up doing.
3. Do the things that inspire you
Depression or not, losing yourself in a run, a painting, a song, or a journal entry is critical to your mental health.
We can all access flow states – that sense of timelessness, where we’re completely absorbed and engaged in the nourishing task at hand, emerging rejuvenated and fulfilled on the other side – but the means are different for everyone.
Whether it’s rock climbing, playing an instrument, or a passionate conversation, getting into a flow state will naturally get you out of your mind and connect you to a sense of self that is transcendent; beyond the details of your temporary, present-day situation.
It’s in this space of flow that we often have spontaneous insights that shift our perspectives and moods. We remember who we are, what really matters and what makes us happy.
Take long walks at night with headphones and epic soundtracks. Sign up for the martial arts class you’ve always been curious about. Buy a used guitar and sign up for lessons. Check out websites like Groupon and Social Shopper for cheap deals on cool activities and new experiences in your area. Look up current/upcoming shows and concerts in your local newspapers.
Engaging in your passions and discovering new ones is a powerful antidote to depression.
4. Eat well, sleep well
If your body is struggling, so will your mind. Proper physical nourishment will go a long way in stabilizing your moods and lessening your symptoms.
Stretch before bed and get 8 hours of sleep. Your brain needs deep sleep in order to flush out toxins, consolidate memories and replenish its resources to manage the other systems in the body.
I really could go on, but you’ve heard all the tips before. This is the time where you pick one or two and actually follow through on them.
My favourite stress-busting kick over the past few months has been yin yoga. Yin is all about slow, gentle release, holding postures for several minutes at a time and relaxing to the very core of your being. I step into a studio several times a week and melt into a blissful puddle on my mat. This has been huge for countering burnout and replenishing my adrenals.
I know it’s not easy and it often feels like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. But I promise that, if you make the effort, you will come out stronger on the other side.
Lean on other people, move your body, follow your flow states, eat right, rest your nervous system and the clouds will part eventually.
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Sex and relationship coach Jordan Gray helps people remove their emotional blocks and maintain thriving intimate relationships. When he's not coaching clients or writing new books, Jordan loves to pretend he's good at surfing, immerse himself in new cultures, and savour slow-motion hang outs with his closest companions. You can see more of his writing at JordanGrayConsulting.com